Cook focused on present as England thrill

Ross McLean
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All-rounder Ben Stokes followed his batting heroics with 3-38 in England’s 124-run win
TEST skipper Alastair Cook insists that England’s thrilling 124-run demolition of New Zealand at Lord’s yesterday is the perfect antidote to the turbulence which has blighted his side on and off the pitch during the past 18 months.

The touring Black Caps were dismissed for 220 with 9.3 overs of the fifth and final day remaining, having been set a victory target of 345 after England progressed their overnight score to an imposing 478, as Cook amassed an obdurate 162.

Success, in a game which saw a Lord’s record of 1,610 runs scored, represented a dramatic turnaround for the hosts who slumped to 30-4 on the first morning, while only once have England overturned a bigger first-innings deficit than 134 to win.

England’s victory, in their first clash since the sacking of head coach Peter Moores earlier this month, means they hold an unassailable lead ahead of the final match of the two-Test series at Headingley, which starts on Friday.

“For us, in the dressing room, there are a few tired lads but some incredibly happy guys, and they can be very proud of the way they played this week,” said Cook, who notched a 27th Test ton. “All the other stuff, external stuff as we keep calling it, we’ve just got to let that be whatever it is.

“It was a real team effort this week. It’s been a bit of a rocky road for the last two weeks for us as a side so to come out and play with that freedom and that passion, the lads and the backroom staff should be very proud of that.”

All-rounder Ben Stokes, who hit the fastest ever Test hundred at Lord’s on Sunday, ignited England’s charge in the afternoon session by dismissing first-innings centurion Kane Williamson and visiting captain Brendon McCullum in successive deliveries with the score on 61.

Stokes’s heroics disrupted a partial recovery after New Zealand were rocking at 0-2 and then 12-3 as Jimmy Anderson, who will have to wait for his 400th Test victim, dismissed Martin Guptill with only the second ball of the innings and fellow seamer Stuart Broad dealt a double blow.

Wicketkeeper BJ Watling and the counter-attacking Corey Anderson both registered half-centuries to thwart England’s progress before pace debutant Mark Wood and part-time off-spinner Joe Root intervened to expose the New Zealand tail.

After Stokes yorked Mark Craig to finish with figures of 3-38 and Moeen Ali grasped a sharp caught and bowled opportunity to account for Tim Southee, it was left to Broad, with a little help from a sprawling Moeen at third man, to dismiss Trent Boult.

Having failed to convert promising positions into Test victories on a number of occasions over the last year, caretaker boss Paul Farbrace believes winning is a vital commodity for England’s crop of emerging players to harness.

“It’s all very well talking about being a developing side and having a team which is going to be good in years to come, but international sport is about the here and now and it’s about winning,” said Farbrace.

“Players have a small window of bedding in but it’s important to put in performances. It’s about winning.”